I’ve launched into something else, and while the self-imposed obligation to post every Friday does come at a convenient moment this week – need to stick the GW in a drawer for a while – it does feel like an obligation.
GW for Great Work – although just the initials are what I use: lifelong nickname for whatever current piece of writing-in-progress is under discussion at any given moment. Picked it up in an editorial office years ago. My GW of yesterday needs to be put aside so that I can come at it fresh, er, tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow, so I’ve got time to write this.
But the part of me that writes this is the part that’s writing that. See, officer, I’m not drunk. The part of me that’s writing this, that’s writing that, has got stuck into writing that, and writing this – I’m doing it deliberately now – is taking up head-space.
It’s a distraction. Besides, we’re living through such interesting times that all the commentary has become predictable. No, wait. That doesn’t make sense. Yes, somehow it does.
We’re living in bubbles. In my bubble, the government was too slow to impose the lockdown, is now prioritising The Economy over The Virus – and the shops are open again! Yippee! We’re all gonna buy!
Somewhere out there, no more visible than the hypothetical dark matter in space, is the hidden mass of people who (for example) voted Boris into office despite Labour winning The Argument, and who voted The Donald into office as well.
Out here on the surface of the bubble, so far as I can see, we’ve given ourselves a binary choice: stay locked down; go shopping. Out there in the darkness, further out than I can see, I’d have to guess that people are adjusting the way they live to suit the new normal. Shop-owners are working out how to sell more effectively to socially distanced customers, for example, rather than just obediently switching the sign from Closed to Open.
Griping on about the government misses the point that the government is just the government.
Never mind all that. The surface of the pool may be choppy, but these waters run deep.
I have nothing new to say about These Interesting Times, and capital letters won’t hide that. Shopping patterns seem likely to change, and I’d guess the layouts of high-street shops will change too.
The virus is showing us up for who we are, exposing the flaws in the way we live, blah, blah, et cetera.
In the life I’m not living at the moment, my diary tells me, I’m off to Scotland on Saturday for a week’s holiday. That shadow me is packing the kitbag he bought pre-lockdown at Mallett’s in Truro, and I’d guess he’s made a booking to break his journey with an overnight stay at Tebay Services.
My shadow self will enjoy the journey. He’ll take the direct route, M6, and he’ll listen to music, stop regularly, daydream and occasionally scrabble around on the passenger seat for the digital recorder he carries in the belief that the best ideas come at the most inconvenient times.
For the last twenty miles or so, he’ll be sad that the journey’s not just a little bit longer – but then he’ll get there, and everybody will be there, and his holiday will begin.
In the life I am living now, I have a prescription to collect, a new fridge to buy, and a space where I could put a comfortable chair. Facing my comfortable sofa. The fridge and the chair are daydreams of the lockdown that might become real; the prescription’s an opportunity to join Queue A and look forward to joining Queue B.
Making things right. I was irritated by that queuing system, I remember, back in the early days of the lockdown, but I now realise my dispensary was ahead of its time. I take it all back. Sorry. [To the extent that this blog is an ongoing self-portrait, as I think it is sometimes, je delete rien! Embarrassing as some of it might be.]
In the life I’m living now, and considering that this post is my current GW, I should probably say that I’m letting my LP sit in the drawer to cool off for a while. Lockdown Project, although I only started it … a month ago? No idea, actually. Feels recent, but you know how you get into the habit of saying something's new, even after it isn't? That kind of recent.
[I imagine myself in an old people’s home, reading all these posts and thinking: this was me? Wish I’d spent more time at the beach.]
Ha! “Should” probably say. Picking myself up on that. The future is about “could”. I believe that.
“Believe” is the word we use for “hope”.
Half of me thinks that in three weeks’ time, the bubble will be alive with the sound of people complaining that the government released the lockdown too early. The other half thinks the virus will hold off now until Winter – or Autumn, when we can tell each other that Winter is Coming, ha ha, black humour.
By then – whichever “then” I’m talking about – I hope I’ll have my chair and my fridge in place. In most of the fiction I’ve read over the lockdown, there’s a “me” character – not a character that I identify with, necessarily, but one who comes fairly close to sounding a bit kind of me-ish in his habits.
He may be the Dad. He may be the Co-worker. He may be the Detective’s Partner, the Vaguely Bad-Guy Neighbour who complains about the dog, or if we’re talking about Anne Tyler (start with The Accidental Tourist or A Patchwork Planet), he’s often the younger-than-me-but-I-can-overlook-that central character.
Whatever his character flaws, morals, quest for redemption, contribution to the plot, the “me” character almost always owns a chair in which he sits in the evening with the cold bottle of beer he’s just taken from his fridge.
Even if his only role is to deny the existence of the Supernatural Threat until it walks up to him and eats him – he gets at least one chance to sit in his chair and drink his beer. Even if he dies in the end, he gets, et cetera.
The chair is often identified as a La-Z-Boy Recliner, which I’ve imagined and … now look up online and ... Cor!
I’m gonna need a bigger space.
And either a charity shop selling furniture, or a fatter wallet. The “me” character is never a banker.
In Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, not much of a spoiler, the “me” character not only gets the chair and the fridge and faces up to the threat; he also gets a quirky sidekick.
Huh! Some “me” characters get all the luck.
I have a feeling that any quirky sidekick I could get would point out before long that (a) I need to Hoover the stairs, (b) I can’t leave the washing-up overnight, (c) I need a haircut, and (d) she’s actually now the Central Character and I’m just the Old Guy Who Writes That Blog.
By then, we’ll only be talking because she dropped in to check that I’m eating healthily and taking exercise.
So the issue for me is type-casting. I haven’t even got the chair for it, but I’m still the “me” character around here.
[Memo to self: dump the patched jacket and the avuncular manner, vacate the corner office in the faculty building with its shelves of ancient leather-bound volumes and strange amulets, and stop giving five minutes to every young detective passing through with a mysterious clue daubed on a fragment of parchment.]
I admit the beer-drinking is attractive.
Feel free to stake out this space – “me” characters always return to the scene of the blog post (or to whatever else they do to fix themselves in the reader’s mind). I’ll be coming back here again.
But not quite so regularly for a while. I have an LP to finish.
Usually, I keep it muted. There are (were) campaigns for real ale, slow food, et cetera, and I'm running a one-man campaign for phones like they were in the nineteen-seventies. I haven't bought one of those rotary phones you can get now, with the proper rotary dial, but I've come close once or twice.
My campaign doesn't involve me in doing much, except feeling free to mute the thing at times when I wouldn't have had a phone next to me in the nineteen-seventies, and then forgetting to unmute it, but the curious, perhaps serendipitous, consequence is that I no longer hear from scammers.
I occasionally receive phonecalls (and more often return calls I've missed) but today clearly is a receiving day.
"Hey, what's up?"
"You're posting this week?"
"Er - yeah. Why?
"You've sounded a bit down over the past couple of weeks, and I just wanted to check."
"I'm okay, thanks for asking. Bit weirded out by it all. But distracted, not down. I've been working on something else, which is probably what you've picked up. It's a [REDACTED] with razor-sharp [REDACTED] and an extra set of [REDACTED], and of course I'll tell you all about it when it's ready. But yeah. Certainly posting."
"Okay, great. Don't tell me what it's about."
I'm pretty sure you are reading this. Thanks for the call.